So you’re attending a school down the street, a few states away, or maybe even across the country. But have you ever thought about studying in a completely different country? You can learn and dream about the world, but there’s nothing like seeing it for yourself. Studying abroad is an incredibly enriching life experience. There’s a whole potential for new memories, with new people, in a completely new culture. If you’re interested in this exciting opportunity to see the world, but aren’t sure where to start, here is a basic guide to help you with your study abroad adventure:
1.) Do Your Research:
First and foremost, it is important to learn about the programs your school provides. Check out all of your options; this includes locations, length of programs, and any specialized curriculums that relate to your major. Find out if there are any meetings in which you can gather general information about costs, requirements and the grading system. Finally, and most importantly, pick a city that speaks to you, a place you can see yourself falling in love with. Do you see yourself exploring London’s Theater District, or wandering through the ancient architecture in Rome? Have you ever wanted to spend a semester learning French in Paris, or tasting your way through the different foods of Tokyo? The possibilities are endless, but it’s up to you to do the research and apply!
2.) Spend Smart:
When you’ve chosen the destination you’d like to study in, one thing to keep in mind is the exchange rate and your banking options. Most major banks have sister banks in other countries. This could mean that you won’t get charged an ATM fee or even an exchange fee. If your bank doesn’t have that option, sometimes they will instead reimburse you for any ATM or exchange related charges.
Credit cards are a big topic among students that go abroad. However, credit cards can sometimes do more harm than good. Unless you are able to stick to a regular payment plan, it would be smarter to bring a debit card for daily use and keep a credit card only on hand in case of emergencies. It is very easy to lose track of how much money you’re spending when you’re not dealing with cash, especially when there’s an exchange rate to keep track of. Also, make sure to keep a leash on any spending habits - while frequent shopping trips and nights out on the town may be fun, they will consume a hefty chunk out of any bank account.
3.) Socialize and Explore!
Arriving in a new country can seem a little daunting at first, but it’s important to remember that all the rest of the students studying with you are in the same boat. Get in touch with other students in your program who also go to your college at home. It will be nice to see some familiar faces when you get there, even if you’ve only talked to them a short amount of time before you left home. While some people are lucky enough to have some friends come with them, for most, it’s not the case. It can seem like freshman year all over again; not knowing anybody and having to make a whole new circle of friends, but it won’t take long until you find the right group of people. And to those who come with friends from home or a large group from school, explore outside of your friend group. You’ll meet people from all over the world who have the potential to enrich your experience and become your friends forever.
Once you’ve gotten settled into your new university, it’s time to get a feel for the place that will be your home for the next semester or two! Look up fun walking tours, school-run trips to local sights, and visit all the landmarks you’ve always wanted to see! Ask around for local treasures, like museums, restaurants, and quirky shops. Cities like London have student discounts to many attractions, so make sure to look up fun activities that offer a reduced price. Learn about the history, the people, and the culture that you’ve immersed yourself in.
Explore outside your city as well. Take day trips to cities or towns outside of your host city. You’d be amazed by the differences in culture that an hour on a train can transport you to. Of course, other countries are exciting to visit as well. If you study in Europe, you have easy (and relatively cheap) access to other major cities. Plan weekends away in advance. Experience as many places as your schedule and wallet allows!
4.) Most Importantly, Study!
While it’s easy to get caught up in all of the excitement that goes on outside of school, remember that you are still in college! School needs as much attention as your extracurricular explorations. If you’ve done your research on the programs your school and city abroad provides, you’ve hopefully landed yourself some interesting classes that make the studying part as stimulating as the abroad part. Either way, it is important to remember to balance all of the fun outside of the classroom with your work inside of it.
Wherever you decide to go, it’s up to you to make the most of it. Do the work, experience as much as you can. Having seen a piece of what the world can hold in store for you, you’ll walk away with the memories you made, and a craving to make more.